India unlocked but no one to stand guard

The first wave of demand is coming from corporates, factories, hospitals, construction sites and vacant properties. In factories and offices, demand for trained guards at entry-exit points and other spaces has doubled due to mandatory Covid-relate...

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Mumbai: As the lockdown eases across the country, India could be faced with a shortage of private security guards, the Central Association of Private Security Industry (CAPSI) said. The industry employed 9 million people before Covid-19 struck but as retail outlets, malls, restaurants and movie theatres downed shutters, many returned to their villages.

“We are preparing for post-Corona security challenges. There is a 35-40% shortage of private security guards pan-India,” said Kunwar Vikram Singh, chairman of CAPSI, which has 23,000 security agencies as members.

The first wave of demand is coming from corporates, factories, hospitals, construction sites and vacant properties. In factories and offices, demand for trained guards at entry-exit points and other spaces has doubled due to mandatory Covid-related checks.


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The security industry has always been understaffed due to unequal and low wages. Currently, security guards get paid Rs 5,000-16,000 a month depending on minimum wage rules in various states.

“The need for Covid-trained people will put a strain on the industry already reeling under manpower shortage,” said Anil Puri, CMD, AP Securitas.

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CAPSI’s Singh said, “Even in the pre-Covid times there was personnel shortage. Now, with many people returning to their villages, the demand-supply gap will widen.”

To be sure, many guards, natives of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and North East, visit their villages at this time of the year to participate in harvest-related work.

Cash Crunch
But there has been an exodus on top of that due to the lockdown.

“As the economy opens up, there will be a demand for more security guards,” said Shibu Issac, another CAPSI official.
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Any large mall will need about 350-400 guards in the parking area and at entry-exit points. “With the lockdown, these places were functioning with barely 20-30 people,” said Vishwanath V Katti, MD of Bengaluru-based Guardwell Prime Services.

Corporate demand has increased from earlier levels.
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“Companies with two guards earlier would now need three or four because of Covid checks,” Issac said.

“A lot of unmanned factories are facing security issues,” Puri said. “When these reopen, there will be need for guards.”

State police departments are also seeking support from private security guards to help with crisis management. “The Karnataka state government recently sought help of the Karnataka Security Services Association (KSSA), which gave 1,000 guards to the police department,” said Katti.

Industry experts are concerned about a possible rise in social unrest as job losses lead to snatching, theft and street violence. “Social unrest is a big challenge we have to take care of,” said Singh.

The security industry is also facing a cash crunch. “We have razor-thin margins. You cannot have unbillable people sitting on the bench for a long time,” said Puri of AP Securitas. “The government has to find a solution on how we are going to be paid.”

While the country returns to daily business, the private security industry is pinning hopes on the implementation of the labour wages code, which allows the Centre to set a minimum statutory wage across the country. “It will remove the current wage disparity and attract a lot of young people into the industry to help meet the supply shortage,” said Singh.
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